News / Africa

Abortion Weighs Heavily in Reproductive Rights Debate

Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
Joe DeCapua

It’s estimated there are more than 45 million abortions worldwide every year. Reproductive rights advocates say more than half are unsafe, causing many injuries and deaths among young women. They say protecting adolescent women should be part of the development agenda. The issue was discussed at an event at a Washington think tank.

Many unintended, many unsafe

Leila Hessini is director of community mobilization at Ipas, an NGO working to end preventable deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions. She spoke at a recent event at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

“Every year, there are 87 million unintended pregnancies. So this is 41 percent of all pregnancies. And this is really a figure that we need to unpack and understand because so much contributes to that. It’s about unmet need for contraception. It’s about sexual violence. It’s about contraception being unaffordable. So there are a lot of reasons that go into this,” she said.

Hessini said 33 million of the unintended pregnancies are among women using contraceptives. She says that means either a failure of the contraceptive itself or in the way in which it’s used.

“Every year there are 46 million abortions. Half of these, 21.6 million, are unsafe. The vast majority of these unsafe abortions are in the Global South. They’re in developing countries. And 30 to 60 percent of adolescent pregnancies end in abortion,” she said.

In sub-Saharan African countries, a high percentage of deaths from unsafe abortions are among adolescent women.

Abortions take place in countries where laws range from allowing easy access to no access at all.

Hessini said, “Forty percent of the world’s women live in countries where abortions are available, what we say, on request. Even though there’s always, as we know, different limitations and restrictions to abortion. Another 26 (percent) live in countries where abortion is only available to save a woman’s life or is prohibited altogether. And those you who follow the abortion debates know that abortions are totally prohibited in certain countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Dominican Republic, Malta and the Vatican City.”

Protection of women needed

Jennifer Redner, a consultant for the International Women’s Health Coalition, said too often basic rights are not protected.

“In too many places, the fundamental right of every woman and girl to control her body simply isn’t recognized. For a girl, control over her body and her sexual life requires more than access to health services. Her most basic human rights – freedom from violence, discrimination and coercion – must be protected both in their own right and to enable her access to services,” she said.

Redner said solutions to the problems are not new. They just haven’t been fully implemented.

“Multi-sectoral programming that works with adolescent girls and their communities to address the multiple barriers that girls face accessing health services, attending school, preventing early marriage, preventing violence and building the economic assets of girls will contribute to our collective goals of ensuring that girls can safely transition to adulthood and can be economically productive members of their community,” she said.

Fiercely debated

Abortion, whether legal or illegal, safe or unsafe, remains a controversial, hotly debated and fought-over issue.

Taryn Hodgson is the international coordinator of the Christian Action Network based in Cape Town, South Africa.

She said, “Firstly, abortion is never safe, especially not for the baby, who is killed in the process. So whether it’s legal or illegal abortion is never safe for the baby. It’s also never safe for the woman. Statistics from the Elliott Institute, who’ve done peer reviewed research into post abortion issues, have found that at least over 60 percent of women are coerced into having abortions.”

She said that coercion comes from parents, husbands or boyfriends. Hodgson says consequences of having an abortion include depression, nightmares and grief. She added legal abortions do not lower maternal death rates.

“Maternal deaths can be prevented with adequate nutrition, basic health care and good obstetric care throughout the pregnancy at delivery and post-partum,” she said.

The Christian Action Network official said this is especially true in many African countries with poor health care systems. As for women having control over their own bodies, Hodgson said, “It’s not a question of whether she should have control over her body. She now has a child, not a choice. The issue of children’s rights, right from conception, needs to be addressed.”

South Africa legalized abortions in 1997. Hodgson says despite that there’s been an increase in illegal or back street abortions because the government has not cracked down on them. What’s more, she says, pills to induce abortion are now readily available on many street corners in South Africa.

She said abortion should be banned under all circumstances, adding that cases in which the mother’s life is in danger are rare. In that case, however, she said the doctor should try to save both lives and not choose who will live.

The Elliott Institute mentioned by Hodgson is in Springfield, Illinois. It says its strategy is to end abortion with compassion. And that the welfare of a mother and her unborn child are inseparable.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More